A Young Friend of Mine Turned 40 Today – and Because She Asked: 5 Bits of Advice

Blog - Beth Wayland

I have never seen anyone else take on the turn of a decade like my friend, Beth. Surrounded by friends and family, she danced and laughed and ate ice cream and danced some more. That was this weekend, then she jumped on a plane to spend her actual birthday, today, in New York City. Read more about that here.

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Ice Cream Bar

About six months ago, I received a letter from her. She wrote 40 women, older than her, about her fortieth birthday coming up and asked their counsel on these middle years of life. I am sure she heard back from all of them (us) because that was a small thing to do for someone as lovely as Beth.

I thought for weeks and weeks about what to write…What did I learn after 40? What could I tell her that might make a difference in an already amazing life? What could I say that she didn’t already know. Well, I gave it a shot…and finally sent that letter to her just before her birthday weekend.

Following are ___ of the bits of advice I gave to beautiful Beth.

1) “Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. This is key to everything. It was essentially the message of Jesus to Martha (Luke 10:38-42) which seems harsh except that we recognize how much He loved Martha. In ministry, we default to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We serve and serve and serve (like Martha did). Then there comes a time, if we’re not careful that we serve on empty. We keep those commands in right order because that’s what He intended for our sakes, and His glory. My nature is to be Mary, but the needs all around drives me to be a Martha. Folks around us don’t need a Martha; they need GOD.

2) Be a woman of prayer. Prayer is not a project or part of a program. It is meant to be our covering for every moment and circumstance of life. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thess. 5:16-18. Whatever our situation, we need prayer and perspective that comes with prayer. Brother Lawrence’s “Practicing the Presence of God” was a great help to me in those earlier years.

3) Don’t wait for “life” to happen. Some unmet longings are beyond our control – that “right guy”, the healing of a friend, reconciliation that didn’t happen yet, that opportunity that went to another. However, I think we struggle with hammering through this season, longing for the next. I find it a discipline requiring my attention daily to LIVE the life I want…and to which God has called me.

4) Have men in your life – fathers, brothers, whomever. There were both single and married women in the company of Christ & the apostles. It helps us with perspective. In the Christian community, we too often separate out by gender. I understand how that happens, but we should figure out how to be in company with each other in wholesome and holy ways. It makes a difference…for us…and for them.

5) Keep Writing. We can’t all be in your life every day, but when you write, we are there. Thank you for your transparency and generosity, your gentleness and humor, and your deep love. Keep writing.

Any who read this blog of mine know I offered more than 5 bits of advice, but this is all I will repeat today.

Happy Birthday, Beth. You are a prize!

Blog - Beth Turns 40 Blessed

By the way, if you have any counsel for all of us as we course through this life, feel free to share in the comments section below. You, too, Beth.

I will leave you with what Beth shared on this morning of her 40th.:

“When you enter in to the places you thought you would never recover from, you will find something solid. The lie is that there won’t be anything solid for you to stand on. Your fear will tell you to avoid, but when you “go there” you will find yourself more anchored and trusting.  You will learn about God and his heart for you and here’s the kicker, your heart for Him.  If you follow Jesus, he gave you a new heart.  This is the unshakeable foundation of your life – that no matter what does or doesn’t happen, He is trustworthy and has bigger dreams than you could ever dream for yourself, even in the midst of longing, loss, gains, and waiting.  Especially in the waiting.” 

Photo Credits – Beth Wayland

Beth Wayland Blog

A Saturday Too Quiet…Then Clarity: Room For God…Be Still My Soul

Blog - Sunset #3

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.           Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth! – Psalm 46:1, 10

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the Lord upholds him with His hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken…He is ever merciful…    – Psalm 37:24-25a, 26a

I love the ebb and flow of the work week. There is a rhythm in routine that soothes my heart. The weekends are another thing. Don’t get me wrong: I love the weekend. However, if I wrestle with depression, (and I do), it will be the most trying on Friday night, through the day Saturday, and then Sunday night. Sunday, during the day, there is a reprieve with church and people and the routine of afternoon nap mixed with whatever sporting event is televised.

This was a too quiet Saturday…or so my self-serving little heart was telling me. I WANT PEOPLE…people who I can feed and hear their stories and maybe make laugh… People I can serve somehow. In that, a Saturday is redeemed for me.

Sometimes we are insatiable…we can be busy, busy, busy (if that’s our drug, our path to some sort of significance)…and still our hearts betray our hunger…our hunger for what really satisfies.

Some Saturdays are all loveliness…this one was a struggle. Even with a birthday phone call from an old friend, and opportunities to help my daughter, take food to a new mom, and be a second set of eyes for my husband in the throes of a difficult project. It wasn’t enough. I was restless…for something…

After dropping off food to that new mom and her family, and holding the wee one for a moment, I pulled my car out into the sunset. It’s pictured above (captured poorly from my phone). Oddly, an old hymn I hadn’t heard in years popped into my head. It was “Be Still My Soul”.

As I half-hummed, half-sang the words I remembered, the glory of God filled my heart. His beauty captivated me – in that sunset, and in the newborn baby, and in the life we take so for granted. Stopping on the side of the road, I let the world stand still for a bit…until the sun burned out into evening.

Thank You, God, that You brought clarity to a busy mind and a longing heart on this too quiet Saturday. Too quiet for me…but only until You stop the ache and bring me back to Yourself. May I have the sense to be still, and know…You. It is enough. You are enough.

Be Still My Soul (traditional & contemporary versions – YouTube links below)

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav’nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Be still, my soul: begin the song of praise
On earth, believing, to Thy Lord on high;
Acknowledge Him in all thy words and ways,
So shall He view thee with a well-pleased eye.
Be still, my soul: the Sun of life divine
Through passing clouds shall but more brightly shine.

2015 Jan Blog 011

Full Lyrics of Be Still, My Soul – Timeless Truths

Be Still, My Soul (In You I Rest) – Kari Jobe

Be Still My Soul – Selah

Hymn – Be Still My Soul – Traditional

 

 

Worship Wednesday – Worship Leaders – Keilan Creech

Keilan best shot for blog

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;  We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.  For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. – Psalm 100

We humans are worshippers. We will worship. It is not something we have to muster up; worship comes naturally to us. What or whom we worship varies. Followers of Christ are drawn to worship God by His Spirit and in response to the Truth we find in Scripture. When the church gathers, we worship.

The church coming together in corporate worship can be a glimpse of Heaven. We are often led in worship by someone (or a team) entrusted by the church with that responsibility. It is not a light thing to lead a people into worship. There is ever the threat of moving the people’s focus from God to the worship leaders themselves.  A glorious choir, cool band, or winsome worship team can put on a really good show and our attention drifts from God…to them.

We have been blessed over the years by worshipping God with other believers in many situations. In congregations of thousands and in a small living room with another family. With worship led by one person on guitar and with a great choir and orchestra. In our own heart language and in Arabic, French, and other languages. In times of leanness of spirit and times when our hearts soared with gratitude to God.

Part of our gratitude goes to those worship leaders who help us shake off the cares of our lives for those moments as we gather. They lead us, through their own prayers, music, and servant attitudes, to train our hearts toward God and fix our eyes on Him. Holy perspective follows.

One of those worship leaders who has been a delight to us is Keilan Creech. He is a young singer/song-writer, and we had the privilege of worshipping under his leadership for a couple of years. He grew up in Brazil but currently studies and works in Richmond, Virginia. We don’t see him often, but when we do, I tell him, “We will always be able to say ‘we knew you when’….” One day, you will know him as his music career takes off, and I’m thinking he will be the same Keilan Creech we know, who loves God and loves the church.

His album Dying for a Change plays regularly when we’re at home, and on our phones and in our car as we travel. Nathan Mills played electric guitar on that album and is now one of our worship leaders in the house church where we gather to worship. We are in a different season from the days of church of hundreds with Keilan and his team leading worship, but we continue to be blessed as church gathered, led in worship of a GOD who makes our hearts sing.

Worship with me:

Light Shining Out of Darkness by Keilan Creech (adapted from poem by William Cowper)

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sov’reign will.

When the sky is grey
And all hope seems lost
There is light shining out
of darkness

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

When the sky is grey
And all hope seems lost
There is light shining out
of darkness
 
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Photo Credit

Keilan Creech Music

Dying for a Change Album by Keilan Creech

ReverbNation page for Keilan Creech

Noisetrade – Free Album Download

Hillsong United – All I Need Is You, Lord (Cover by Keilan Creech)

What Does a Worship Leader Do?

Worship in the Old & New Testaments

 

 

Mission Drift – 12 Quotes from a Phenomenal Book on Being True to Our Mission

Blog - Mission DriftPhoto Credit: Peter K. Greer, President & CEO of Hope International

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:13-14, 16

The first book of my 2015 reading will be one I review regularly from now on. In fact, my husband and I are sharing a copy of it which has been a challenge. We’ve both read it through, but it’s not done with us, if you know what I mean…so we keep reading and reflecting.

Peter Greer and Chris Horst (with Anna Haggard) have written an incredible little book entitled Mission Drift. The book’s byline is “The Unspoken Crisis Facing Leaders, Charities, and Churches”. I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who has invested their lives in a faith-based organization, or Christ-centered business, or Christian charity. In fact, if you haven’t already read it, and you’re a Christ-follower, please make it a priority.

Mission drift is the slow and insidious shift away from the original mission, purpose, and identity of an organization. Greer and Horst have done extensive research on organizations who have either remained “mission true” or have fallen sadly away from their mission. The stories are fascinating and compelling. They lay a foundation that can help all of us prevent mission drift in our own lives and in our spheres of influence.

I have captured below 12 quotes from the book. These are just to whet your appetite. Mission Drift is an easy read and the truths resonate with our desire to be faithful and true stewards.

“Mission Drift…is pervasive and affects faith-based organizations of all varieties – nonprofits, churches, denominations, businesses, foundations, and schools. ..be optimistic…that drift is not inevitable.” (pp. 19, 22)

“Mission True organizations know why they exist and protect their core at all costs. They remain faithful to what they believe God has entrusted them to do. They define what is immutable: their values and purposes, their DNA, their heart and soul…To remain Mission True is to adapt and grow, so long as that adaptation and growth does not alter the core identity.” (p. 27)

“Mission True organizations know who they are and actively safeguard, reinforce, and celebrate their DNA. Leaders constantly push toward higher le2vels of clarity about their mission and even more intentionality about protecting it.” (p. 51)

“Leaders often first ask what, then move to how, and finally transition to why. ..Great innovators…start with why. The ordering really matters. Everything flows from why. Not only does it motivate others to join you, it also guides what you do – and often more important – what you don’t do.” (pp. 71-72)

“The gravitational pull of secularism is felt perhaps most acutely in hiring…Mission True leaders hire carefully, intentionally, and prayerfully. They approach each hiring decision seriously, recognizing that each staff member represents the mission of the organization. ” (pp. 103, 107)

“Mission True organizations recruit and engage Mission True donors.” (p. 115)

“You are what you measure…Our highest goal is to remain faithful to our Christ-centered identity and mission. Because of our identity, we must pursue excellence. Metrics can be self-serving. We need to be clear why we pursue them. Seeing God for who He is clarifies our role: We are stewards. Metrics help us to remain accountable for the work that God has placed in our hands.”  (pp. 131, 133, 136)

“Slapping an ichthus (the Christian fish symbol of the early church) on product packaging does not mean it honors God. Christian shoddy is still shoddy. In Mission True organizations, quality must be nonnegotiable.” (p. 139)

“‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast.’  Mission True organizations get this. They focus on the little things. They understand how important practices and norms are to the living and breathing cultures of their organizations. The small decision each and every day may seem inconsequential, perhaps even trivial, but these little things protect against Mission Drift…Beyond policies, Mission True organizations recognize that culture is composed of all the ‘little things’.” (pp. 148-149, 155)

“Clear language reinforces identity and also leads to accountability. Being clear with your plans and identity enables people to keep you on mission. If you regularly talk about who you are, you invite scrutiny and accountability. Publicly proclaiming who you are strengthens your identity and empowers people to point out inconsistencies.” (p. 163)

“Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” – Luke 12:8-9

“For organizations who desire to protect against Mission Drift, one of the most powerful anchors is the local church…Wisdom lies in anchoring ourselves to the church as the church is anchored to Christ. Across time and culture and trends, the church remains.” (pp. 167, 173)

“Courageous Mission True leaders…have stood unwaveringly upon the Truth of the Gospel. In all areas, they have demonstrated intentionality and clarity in retaining Christian distinctiveness. They are committed to Christ, first and foremost.” (pp. 180-181)

********************************************************************

One organization very dear to me keeps its mission before its personnel and donors in regular, consistent, creative and winsome ways. We know what we are about. There is never a doubt what we’re to be about. What safeguards does that beloved faith-based organization of yours have in place to hold back mission drift?

Peter K. Greer Blog & How to Order Mission Drift

Chris Horst Blog

The Subtle Danger of Mission Drift

Worship Wednesday – Because He Lives (Amen) – a Song by Matt Maher

Blog - Matt Maher Because He Lives

“I was overcome by trouble and sorrow, then I called on the name of the Lord; ‘O Lord save me!’ The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simplehearted; when I was in great need, he saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. For you, O Lord, have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” Psalm 116:3-9

“I’m alive, I’m alive…because He lives.”

I went to bed last night with dread and woke up with peace. How does that happen?

Just four times a year, I lead a training session for women who work in very difficult situations. It’s a task that leaves me undone every time because of their lives and stories. Last night, I determined this session would be my last. It was just too uncomfortable for me to stand in front of women I admire so much and try to offer something to them. Either in a dream or in my thoughts just before waking, God spoke to me. “You give these women an opportunity to circle up and glorify Me (God) – to talk about how I show up for them. For their sakes…and the sakes of those they love…and for My glory.”

My sorrow turned to joy…with a word from a loving and true God.

Some people who choose to live secular lives are put off by God’s desire for us to glorify Him with our lives. They don’t know that it’s not because God needs us to give Him glory. He. needs. nothing. I think it’s because if we don’t see Him in all our circumstances, we will focus our thinking on lesser, less true, things.

We are born worshippers. God put that in our DNA from the beginning. We will worship. You can fill in the blank on the object of that worship.

Worshipping God brings the universe aright from wherever we are, be it in a time of prosperity and all is well with work, family, and friends. Or in a time of great struggle…when our thinking is clouded by a weight of wrong…from our own personal circumstances or those of someone we love.

We know and love a couple going through a very hard time. The young husband and father has been given a diagnosis that could devastate any of us. Yet they hold tight to a good God and are surrounded by hundreds of praying friends and family. God is being glorified in their walk through this…and the ripple effect is wide. Blog - Because He Lives

The verses from the Psalms atop this blog were the first post I read on Facebook today – put there by close friends of this family – colleagues dealing with his diagnosis and their own personal trials today. They were comforted by David, the writer of that psalm centuries ago. David, who knew and glorified the same God we follow today. Our circumstances may be different, but God is the same – in power, in mercy, in grace.

Would you take a moment to pray for these two families – so like the rest of us – as they glorify GOD in the midst of trouble? We are held close by His strong arms, and His love is the truest thing we know in this life.

Matt Maher wrote a song that communicates this so well. He collaborated with Chris Tomlin and Bill & Gloria Gaither. Your hearts will be touched, I’m sure, as mine was.

Worship with me:

Because He Lives (Amen)

I believe in the Son
I believe in the risen One
I believe I overcome
By the power of His blood

Amen, Amen
I’m alive, I’m alive
Because He lives
Amen, Amen
Let my song join the one that never ends
Because He lives

I was dead in the grave
I was covered in sin and shame
I heard mercy call my name
He rolled the stone away

Because He lives
I can face tomorrow
Because He lives
Every fear is gone
I know He holds my life my future in His hands.

Photo Credit – WPLG Radio

Story Behind the Song Because He Lives (Amen) with Matt Maher

Story Behind the original Because He Lives by Gloria & Bill Gaither

YouTube Official Lyric Video for Because He Lives (Amen)

Matt Maher Music

Lyrics – from Clayton Imoo’s blog

Gaither Homecoming Because He Lives

Psalm 116 Commentary

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 2)

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

As an end-of-the-year reflection on the work of GOD in our lives, I’ve looked back over the years. 12 recollections out of the many times He has moved on our behalf. The first 6 are found here.

7) We moved overseas to work almost 20 years ago. Our children were young and we felt terribly young ourselves with the language skills of a preschooler. On arriving in a beautiful capital city in North Africa, with survival Arabic and the grace of God, my husband needed to find a house for us to rent. It seemed a daunting task.  That first morning, we prayed together, and he left the hotel to begin the search…by faith, really. Even hailing a taxi requires some cultural understanding of how it’s done there, and it took a few tries for him to “win” a ride. Finally a taxi driver invited him in, and off they went. In a country of 9 million Muslims, there were many 30 Christ-followers. In all this huge city, the taxi driver who stopped for him was one of those few.  Over the years, we have known the friendship of many wonderful Muslim people, but on this stressful first morning, to have the company of a brother was a special kindness of God. Housing was eventually found; that encounter was a special grace.

8) After some time in this North African country, work took us outside the capital city to a distant town. Now my husband would have to purchase a vehicle which we had not needed in the capital. Again, like so many seemingly simple processes, this took on a whole new level of complexity when done cross-culturally. The used car souk only happened on Sundays, and the bargaining process was not readily comprehendible. He was unsuccessful for weeks. Knowing our move was imminent added pressure. Finally, one Sunday, he just gave up. He walked up the ridge to the highway to catch a taxi and looked back over all the business of car sales, feeling hopeless. A taxi pulled over for him, and he got in. The driver said, “Are you buying or selling a car?” When my husband told him that he was unsuccessfully trying to buy a car, the driver asked what kind.  It turned out that the driver had a friend selling a car, just the kind we needed. Random, crazy, love-filled act of GOD.

9) While we were overseas, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. It was a lymphoma and, by all rights, should have been cured, or at least arrested, by the treatment of that day. It was not to be so. For three years, Mom endured aggressive chemotherapy. The cancer was relentless. In the course of her treatment, she also had a severe Shingles attack that went into her nervous system and caused her pain for the rest of her life. We came back to the US for what would be her last year. My mom loved the LORD. She never prayed for healing, although we sure did. She only prayed for GOD to be glorified through this cancer. He answered her prayer…and ours, in a different way. Much of her life, she lamented that she didn’t hear GOD speak to her in ways she was sure he did with others. I asked her once, near the end, if He spoke to her now, and she smiled, and said, “All the time.” For her, the cancer was worth it.Fuji002 152a

10) Losing my mom was hard, a “severe mercy”*. Losing my older brother was strange and complicated for me. Robert had what I would describe as a self-imposed hard life. He could be rough with those he loved the most, almost taunting them to desert him. Yet, he had a kind heart that would often betray his attempts to be distant from us. He finally did move away from all his family, building a house way out in the country. When mom died, I think the sense of home for Robert died with her. Two things I prayed for him, during this hermit season of his: that he would not die alone and that he would be reconciled to his family. Although we lived far away, we saw at a distance that Robert began softening in his conversations with us. On our last phone call, he actually sounded happy. He talked excitedly about meeting up with one brother and working on a project with the other brother. At the young age of 61, piercing chest pain forced a call for an ambulance, and he, not many hours later, died on the operating table. He did not die alone, surrounded by the surgical team who sought to repair a shredded aorta…and many in his family praying for him outside. He died short of repairing all his relationships, but he was moving gloriously in that direction…by God’s grace.2007 SepOct 046

11) Our oldest son, Nathan, is a classical guitarist. In his last year of college, he was to perform a Senior recital as part of his requirements for graduation. In the process of preparing for this recital, he developed a tendonitis from the hours of practice. His doctor told him he had to rest his hands for the 2 weeks prior to his recital. This could have been devastating to his performance. Nathan was able to practice the day before and the day of his recital. He was a bit shaken mentally because of those days without practice, but he determined to continue with the recital. I may be his mom, but his playing that day was technically brilliant and incredibly beautiful. Especially given the stress coming into that day. There was a row of us, family and close friends, praying for him through the recital. With every piece completed, it seemed we were more in a worship service than a concert. I filmed his performance, and later as we watched the video, we saw something very interesting. There was a light artifact of some sort, and it looked as if a shaft of light beamed down through his right hand. It was a picture of GOD being  there with Nathan, and we knew He was by Nathan’s performance. Nathan had played for all of us, and for an audience of One. He told us afterwards that his hands ranged from feeling ice cold and difficult to manage to feeling on fire and exquisitely painful…yet he played so well…and so to the glory of GOD.

Nathan & Bekkah Wedding Slideshow Final 060

12) Finally, the last stone of remembrance for today: being present when someone receives the LORD as her own. Many of you may have that experience on a regular basis. For me, spending so many years in the Muslim world, I have only personally had this experience a precious few times so far. This year, I witnessed this once. A young woman I really didn’t know very well appeared at our women’s Bible study. There was an urgency about her…a quiet earnestness. She was there on a mission. The LORD had clearly been working in her heart and she wanted to settle things with Him. There was only a handful of women in the room, but the power of the Holy Spirit was so evident. While some of us explained how to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, the rest of us prayed…back and forth, as she talked, listened, cried…and then prayed aloud herself. Did one of us lead her to be a Christ-follower? No. We were merely and miraculously witnesses of a redeeming love. I wish you could have heard her pray…so full of humility, and longing, and finally peace. To witness the work of GOD in a life He drew to Himself…incredible.

As the New Year begins, what has happened in your life, even on this first day of 2015, that reveals the handprint of GOD?

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:13

*A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken – autobiography about losing his wife and finding God in the midst of the loss

YouTube Video of “Preludio” – one of Nathan Mills’ pieces during his Senior recital

Nathan Mills, Classical Guitarist

Worship Wednesday – Stones of Remembrance – 12 Occasions Where We Saw God Act Mightily (Part 1)

2014 Dec Blog pics - Stones of Remembrance 002

“Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” – Joshua 4:5-7

New Year’s Eve morning. As the sun rises on this last day of 2014, I am drawn to the past, preparing for the future. This past weekend, my husband asked us as a church to reflect back on 2014 and to remember what God had done in our lives and in the world.  Remembering God is a great work itself because other memories are stirred and gratitude floods the heart.

I want to share just 12 of those occasions here…12 for the 12 stones of remembrance perched on my kitchen windowsill. 12 remembrances of how God has shown Himself mighty in our lives.

1) God brought my husband and me together in a remarkable way. I was finishing paperwork to go overseas to work as a nurse and Dave was working on his doctorate almost 1000 miles away. Through a series of God-shaped events, I ended up, not overseas, but in his city teaching in the same university. We met in a tiny church, became close friends…and the rest is [our] history. I did get to work overseas…so nothing lost, and so much gained.

2009 April May Trip to Georgia 112 (2)

2) Our always-happy little girl at 4 years old became very sick. She didn’t seem sick to the pediatricians and so was misdiagnosed for several days. She was always a very stoic little kid when dealing with pain or sickness, and we knew something was terribly wrong.  Finally on the 4th day of taking her to be seen by the doctors, and just in time, she was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix, peritonitis, and sepsis. Through this harrowing experience, God showed Himself mighty in her life, and ours, as we prayed over her and persevered in a messed-up situation…and she was healed.Blog - Christie

3) Our 3rd child came home to us from South Korea. He had a rough start in life, and we knew giving him the care he needed would be a challenge for us. We also knew he was meant to be part of our family. As we boarded the plane to retrieve him, I had one of those moments of “what if’s”. What if we got ahead of God in our desire to add to our family? What if he wasn’t meant for us? A little late for what if’s…but that was the condition of my heart for that moment. Looking out the window of the plane on that damp late summer morning, the sun broke through. Against the mist shone a double rainbow. Not just one promise…but two. Peace stilled my heart. Through all of our son’s struggles and triumphs over these many years, I look back to that defining moment…and am settled.Baby pics of Dan.5Blog - Daniel 2

4) Sometime in my 30’s, I had one of those crises of belief. This wasn’t a unique situation, but it was severe. No power in my life. No place, seemingly in God’s kingdom. Outwardly, all seemed well (active in church, occupied with children, friends, work). Inwardly, I was terrified that somehow I had missed God. Somehow,  someway, what I had done to walk with God wasn’t enough. Then…a small group of us attended a conference on revival with Henry Blackaby and Richard Owen Roberts speaking. As I listened to Dr. Roberts speak, my thinking was transformed. Blog - Richard Owen Roberts

He was small behind the podium, and yet his whole countenance reminded me of what Moses must have looked like…after meeting with GOD Himself. I can’t tell you what he said, really, but there was a moment when the Holy Spirit touched my heart with the great truth of His work in my life. Tears flowed uncontrollably, and in silence, I worshipped the Savior of my life. There has never been a moment of doubt since for me regarding salvation and being a child of GOD.

5) Our nephew, Chad, died over 20 years ago. One day, I will write about him, but for now, suffice it to say he was a shining star in our family. Loving, funny, accepting of all his crazy family. He died instantly in a car accident at 23 years forever young. We were in deep shock at his death…all of us. When the time came for us to view his body, in the casket, I remember thinking, “Well, God, this will be a big test of the sufficiency of Your grace.” As his mom, dad, only sister, grandparents and the rest of us circled that casket, a miracle happened. Grace abounded. All there was in those moments was deep love and amazing grace.

6) There did come a day for our family that we would take a job overseas. It’s one thing for me to decide to go as a single person. A whole other thing transpires when two people determine to gather up all the grandchildren and take them continents away from the grandparents. When we first told our parents, it was heart-wrenching…we felt their sadness as if it were our own. Then…the Lord worked… Not 24 hours after the weight of this news, my father-in-law retrieved their world atlas, and we poured over it together…and God moved again, and knit us all closer together even than we had been before.

We would go overseas…and the grandparents came. So grateful for them…and for the GOD who moves in our hearts.

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…last 6 stones of remembrance in tomorrow’s blog.

“…that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” – Joshua 4:24

Image Credit – Richard Owen Roberts – Blog by Matt Henry on his own encounter with him

What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Assurance of Salvation

 

Stones of Remembrance – Lest I Forget – What are You Remembering About God Today?

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Remember the wonderful works He has done, His wonders, and the judgments He has pronounced. – Psalm 105:5

I have toted a small pile of 12 stones across continents. After over a decade of being moved, they sit above my kitchen sink today. There is nothing magical about them. They just remind me of the provision of GOD to His children (Joshua 4:4-7).

To be honest, I just love stones…especially those tumbled smooth by river currents or sea tides. They remind me of the work of God in our lives – how He takes rough, craggy humans and, by His Spirit, transforms us into vessels fit in form to worship Him and love others.

My husband asked us a few days ago to reflect on how we saw God act in our lives and in the world over the last year.  He said:

“We are inclined to forget the works of God – remembering the works of GOD takes an intentional act.”

I spent intentional time this weekend, my journal and this year’s calendar in hand, and looked at all the ways God stopped me in my tracks with His greatness. So much, so amazingly much…that I hadn’t thought of recently in the daily forgetfulness.

It got me thinking of other times across my life when GOD’s presence was so obvious. Remembering is a good thing to do often, and especially as the year winds down. In another blog post, I’d like to share some of what He called to remembrance.

What are you remembering about God today? I would love to hear.

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Stones of Remembrance – Joshua 4

Remember! – Remembering God’s help yesterday helps us to trust him for today and tomorrow

Don’t Forget What God Has Done For You: A List of Passages that Summarize Redemptive History

63 Bible Verses About Remembering

The Problem of Forgetting

Christmas in a Verse, a Prayer, & a Poem

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A Christmas Verse

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:6

[And One More]

Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.  – Matthew 1:23

A Christmas Prayer

O Lord, how hard it is to accept your way. You come to me as a small, powerless child born away from home. You live for me as a stranger in your own land. You die for me as a criminal outside the walls of the city, rejected by your own people, misunderstood by your friends, and feeling abandoned by your God.

As I prepare to celebrate your birth, I am trying to feel loved, accepted, and at home in this world, and I am trying to overcome the feelings of alienation and separation which continue to assail me. But I wonder now if my deep sense of homelessness does not bring me closer to you than my occasional feelings of belonging. Where do I truly celebrate your birth: in a cozy home or in an unfamiliar house, among welcoming friends or among unknown strangers, with feelings of well-being or with feelings of loneliness?

I do not have to run away from those experiences that are closest to yours. Just as you do not belong to this world, so I do not belong to this world. Every time I feel this way I have an occasion to be grateful and to embrace you better and taste more fully your joy and peace.

Come, Lord Jesus, and be with me where I feel poorest. I trust that this is the place where you will find your manger and bring your light. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Amen. (The Road to Daybreak by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

A Christmas Poem

Not Celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear? Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season? Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration! You should run through the streets to ring the bells and sing the loudest! You should fling the tinsel on the tree, and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!

For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent. It is unto you that a Savior is born this day, One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders, One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes. You are not alone, for He is born this day to you. – Ann Weems

A VerseIsaiah 9:6 & Matthew 1:23

A Prayer

A Poem

 

 

Worship Wednesday – All Is Well – Storyteller Frank Peretti and Songwriter Michael W. Smith

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And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28

All Is Well – A Story for Christmas brings tears to my eyes every time I read it. It was published in 1990 and we read it to our children every Christmas until they were old enough to read it themselves. Then I read it to myself. Frank Peretti is the author and Robert Sauber did the illustrations for the first book. It seems to be out of print now, and a newer edition, with illustrations by Gary Glover, came out in 2002.

I fell in love with the first edition, and it’s still my favorite. Don’t you love when you recover something once precious to you which you thought lost forever? In our many moves, somewhere along the way, we lost All Is Well – A Story for Christmas. I was delighted when, just today, I found the book, that old one, captured on a YouTube video.

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The memories of that book have stirred again – reading together cuddled up with the children in front of the fire in Tennessee, Or listening to the audiobook as they stared sleepily into the dark on those long drives to grandparents. Then childhood years across North Africa when stories familiar brought home closer. The tears came again today, as I watched that YouTube video and the telling of All is Well.

The story focuses on a single mother and her little girl, in tough times financially. There was no money for rent and they were facing losing their home. The little girl, Jenny, was determined to help, and she found an old box of Christmas ornaments that she peddled to neighbors in hopes of helping her mom, Ruth, with the rent. One of those ornaments was a small homemade piece of clay inscribed with the phrase, “All is well.” The rest of the story is a lovely picture of courage, hope, love, and kindness – of neighbors reaching out to this little twosome so in need.

The last page of the book ends with this:

“All is well, huh, Mom?”

“All is well, Jenny. Some way, somehow. We can’t see it yet, but all is well.”

(Narrator) “Well, like I said in the beginning, it all depends on where you’re standing and how good the view is from there. When you’re the storyteller, you have a pretty good view. You know things people in the story don’t know… I know Ruth and Jenny will be taken care of…

You know what tickles me: Ruth knows it, too. She knows. She can’t see any of it from where she is…but she knows.  Now that she remembers how come all is well, she knows. She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny once again: that God is the grandest storyteller of our lives. He weaves our days then strings them like beads on the chain of history. He knows the placement of every person…the end from the beginning. From His lofty heights, He has the best view of all.

She remembers and she’ll tell Jenny that in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago, God wrote Himself into the story and became that central character . Now the Weaver of the Story walks with us in the midst of the story…and He will stay with us, until that story is complete, in His way, in His time, for His glory…and that’s how come all is well. Remember?”

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” – Jeremiah 29:11-13

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Take the time to worship today…and then read this story as a family if you can. Or click on the YouTube video and cozy up with your kiddos to watch the story unfold. My children are all grown up now, but I don’t think they will have forgotten. All is well…or can be. Remember that.

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YouTube Video of original story All Is Well (1990) by Frank Peretti – book and audio CD no longer available. Illustrations by Robert Sauber

All Is Well: The Miracle of Christmas in July by Frank Peretti (2002) with illustrations by Gary Glover – this story is updated from the one above – with Daniel as our young hero, and his mom, Ruth – same great message of love, neighbors, and God’s faithfulness

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well by Michael W. Smith (featured in audiobook of All is Well above

YouTube Lyric Video of All Is Well sung by Carrie Underwood & Michael W. Smith (Spirit of Christmas Album)

For the long nights and heavy burdens – Jesus is coming.

PostScript – January 2, 2015 – Look what my daughter gave me for Christmas – she had the original book among her Christmas books for her 3rd grade class. Now I have them both again…. 2014 Dec Christmas in Richmond with MomMom & PopPop 005a (2)